The Michigan defense has had to adjust to many styles of offense so far in the 2007 season. Last week against Michigan State, the Wolverines got a taste of the Spartans power running game in the second half. This Saturday, they'll see much of the same as the Wolverines head to Madison in the final game before the war with Ohio State.
After struggling with the spread offense at the start of the season, and then being tested with different versions of it for much of the rest, it was a relief last weekend when the Wolverines went to East Lansing, Mich., to take on the Spartans and their power running attack.
Over the first 30 minutes of play, the Maize and Blue seemed to have all the answers holding the green and white well below 100 yards rushing. However, in the second half, the Spartans moved the ball effectively behind the legs of Javon Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick.
At the weekly press conference on Monday, starting defensive tackle Terrance Taylor discussed why the Wolverines struggled to stop the run in the second half.
"I wouldn't say they beat us up physically, but they got a couple good plays in there. It made their drives a little bit longer. Some players didn't do their jobs, including me. But, I don't think they beat us up physically," Taylor said.
"I am a little sore, but I had a great time. I got doubled the whole game, but I had a great time. The whole game was great to me, having them run the ball like that and making plays. When you play against the spread, they're passing or running an option type thing where you don't see guys like me.
"We wanted to go out there and stop the run and have fun doing it. We just kept everything fun out there, laughing and joking. We just wanted to keep making plays and that is something we did do in the second half. In the second half there were plays that we could have made, should have made, but didn't. Throughout the whole game we had fun. That's why you come here, to play in a game like that. I know that's why I came here."
In the upcoming weeks, the Wolverines can expect to see two more power backs similar to the aforementioned Caulcrick. Before the Wolverines showdown with Chris Wells and the No. 1 Buckeyes, the Wolverines will be tested with a trip to Madison, Wis., and a stadium that sent the Maize and Blue home with a loss two seasons ago.
"You expect a lot of those things from away crowds, especially when you are Michigan. I was there my freshman year and it was loud then. I remember that it was pretty loud. We'll be ready. As I said, Chad will stay poised and won't get rattled. Mike is going to be back, so I think we have a good chance."
Along with Hart returning to the field, the Badgers are also expecting to see their No. 1 back return to full-time duties this week.
Against the Buckeyes last weekend, Wisconsin's P.J. Hill, who managed just a 2.7 yards per carry average against the Wolverines last season, was scratched as a last minute decision. This week, with their hopes of a New Year's Day bowl game on the line, Hill should be back to lead the Badgers rushing attack.
"I think we're going to prepare as though P.J. Hill will play," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. "But their freshman, Zach Brown, stepped in there and did an excellent job."
Averaging 186.1 yards per game, the Badgers rushing attack sits at sixth in the Big 10. On the defensive side of the ball, the Wolverines are allowing 134.8 yards per contest, just over triple that of last season.
Kick-off is scheduled for noon on Saturday. ESPN will provide television coverage of the Wolverines final game before the battle with the Buckeyes.